Celebrating its 16th year, the UniverSoul Circus is not offering its usual fare. Of course, there will be Chinese acrobats, foot jugglers, tigers, elephants and a Soul Train line, along with additional acts from across the globe.
But UniverSoul has also been bitten by the theater bug: This year, the circus will not follow the traditional format of ringmaster and sidekick. Instead, it will have one character, “Auntie,” who will serve as the glue to connect the show. She’ll keep things flowing between the acts, connecting the countries represented in the show, entitled “The World in One Ring,” with the audience. And, of course, a mainstay will be the marvelous way that the show features R&B, hip hop and Latin music.
Taking a break between shows, Patrice Lovely, who plays Auntie, talked with me about the circus’ new direction and her character. Describing Auntie, she shared, “Auntie is church. She’s street. It’s all about the kids with her.She loves the kids. She loves to give love and to feel the energy from the kids.”
Playing the character of Auntie is easy for Lovely because it’s a character she has played in several theatrical productions in plays like “Golddiggers,” “When a Woman’s Fed Up” and “Casino.” Giving a bit more insight into Auntie, Lovely said, “Auntie is into Jesus and God, teaching the kids right from wrong and giving love, and she is also learning.”
In fact, Auntie is learning throughout the circus from her hip nephew Lucky (played by Daniel Malatsi).
“Lucky is teaching her new school. [In] the opening of the show, we take you on a journey and we have the whole world in one ring. We take you to new school and old school, which is where Auntie is from. Lucky is teaching her all the new-school dances and songs,” Lovely explained.
Playing Auntie is a challenge Lovely enjoys. She enthusiastically remarked, “Auntie is the thread and glue that ties the different countries together. She keeps it moving, and she’s constantly busy up and down the stairs and getting the whole audience involved. People come to the show expecting to receive that love and be able to touch you, and that’s pretty much what that character does, she weaves everybody together.”
Lovely believes that being part of this year’s show, with the economic crisis that’s currently happening in this country, is a gift that God has bestowed on her. It is her opportunity to make people laugh. “I do believe that laughter is good. It’s like a medicine, and I do believe that laughter is a healing thing for people,” Lovely said. UniverSoul will play in Queens at Roy Wilkins Park March 25-April 5, in Brooklyn at Prospect Park April 8-26 and in the Bronx at the Orchard Beach Parking Lot April 28-May 3. For tickets, visit UniverSoulCircus.com.